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Yerevan Students Block Central Street as Parliament Abolishes Military Draft Deferments

15:50 After an hour-long meeting with NA Republican deputy speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, For the Development of Science student initiative representative Davit Petrosyan told reporters that the authorities “have given us a chance to organize a round table.”

Sharmazanov, for his part, stated that the public round table with discuss the issue of deferment abolishment and “numerous other problems that are of particular concern” for the students.

The deputy parliament speaker also announced that he had requested that students end their hunger strike and stop boycotting classes. “The comprehensive discussions,” he added, will be held on November 22.

Davit Petrosyan argued that the hunger strike, which they have agreed to end, was an effective means for the students to make their voices and demands heard. “The round table discussions will make our further actions more clear,” he added, saying that the authorities have promised to annul the amendments if the students manage to convince them of their wrongfulness.

15:40 At the Wednesday court hearing of the Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sasun) armed group case, Karabakh war veteran, one of the leaders of the rebel group Arayik Khandoyan welcomed and praised the actions of the students. He called on the protesters not to give up and not let “some Vigeniks” [defense minister Vigen Sargsyan] enslave them in the army.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s ambassador to Canada Levon Martiroyan published a photo on Facebook from Vigen Sargsyan current visit to Canada.

14:13 The National Assembly of Armenia today voted to abolish military draft deferments for students. 86 deputies (four of them currently on a business trip, but had left their opinion on the bill) approved the draft submitted by the government on amendments to the law “On Military Duty and Conscription.” The draft, which was adopted in the second reading and in full, received six votes against from members of the opposition Yelk bloc.

Before the vote, Yelk representative Ararat Mirzoyan announced that 120 scientists and professors had joined up with the hundreds of students protesting against the deferment abolishment. The MP called on his colleagues to vote against the bill and take some time to redevelop the draft. The other three factions, nevertheless, ignored this call.

The several hundred students who had been awaiting the voting results at the parliament building since early morning subsequently announced that they would hold a silent action right there at the gates of the parliament. The protesters also compared the MPs to cockroaches, arguing that the voting should not have taken place so early in the morning.

“We’re beginning here an action of silence. By 10:06 [the MPs] had already voted on the bill, the law is now passed, and only the Yelk faction voted against the amendments. It turns out that they had been ignoring our voices for the past 20 days; we do not intend to speak any more, we will stand quietly near these doors,,” Vahan Kostanyan, a member of the For the Development of Science student initiative, stated.

The protesters then blocked a street adjacent to the parliament building and marched to the entrance to Baghramyan Avenue, urging passers-by to support them. The police, whose numbers began to grow significantly during the march, started using force to push the demonstrators to the sidewalk and make them unblock the street. Individual protesters engaged in scuffles with law enforcement officers; some of them were lightly beaten or dragged by officers on the ground.

The roadway of the Baghramyan Avenue was subsequently partially opened. The four students holding a hunger strike at an auditorium of the Yerevan State University were invited by their peers to join the demonstration. The call was made by Vahan Kostanyan, who stated that all protesting students should be involved in the discussion on further actions. “We need sober solutions,” he announced.

The protesters currently continue to remain outside the National Assembly building and intend to start a public discussion to decide on further steps.